With the Big 10 tournament moved back to Indy, let’s see where our teams are at in their journey to the tournament.
#1 Michigan (13-1, 8-1) (E)
No action this week for Michigan as their only game vs Northwestern was postponed. Michigan has 2 games next week and if they win both I think they should be pretty safe to win their first Big 10 title since 2014. First in Ann Arbor vs Illinois. A win against the Illini would give the Wolverines a commanding 3 game lead over every other team still in contention for the Big 10 title. I project the Wolverines to split their games this week beating Illinois and then losing to Wisconsin but I would not be shocked if they lost both games especially with a 2 week layoff since their last game.
#2. Ohio State (15-4,9-4) (+1)
The Buckeyes only had 1 game last week and they took full advantage of it as they were able to upset Iowa in Iowa City to keep their Conference Title hopes alive. With so many teams at 4 losses, Ohio State has virtually no room for error if they want to win the championship. Ohio State has now won 4 straight top 15 road games, including 5 of 6 total wins against top 25 teams this year. Winning these types of games, combined with a senior led team that ranks 4th in the country in offensive efficiency. This week is relatively easy as the Big 10 schedule goes as Ohio State has games at Maryland then home vs IU. I bet OSU will be able to win both games without much issue.
#3. Illinois (13-5,9-3) (+1)
Excellent week for the Fighting Illini as they survived overtime to pick up a road win over Indiana then came back to Champaign and crushed #19 Wisconsin, winning by 15. Both stars were phenomenal for Illinois in that one as Kofi Cockburn dominated inside picking up a 23 point 14 rebound double double, while Ayo Dosunmu had an even better game, picking up a triple double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. This was only the 3rd triple double in Illinois team history. Illinois is playing as good a basketball as any non Gonzaga/Baylor team in the country. Unfortunately the battle for Big 10 supremacy will have to wait as the top 6 clash between Illinois and Michigan has already been postponed. This leaves the Illini with only 1 game this week and it is against lowly Nebraska. Illinois will be able to sleepwalk to a win in this one.
#4. Iowa (13-6, 7-5) (-2)
Not a good week for the Hawkeyes as they dropped both games last week at home to Ohio State, then lost on the road to Indiana. Ohio State is playing as well as any team in the country so it’s a little more excusable but still for a team many pegged as the best non Baylor/Gonzaga team, Iowa should have won that. Losing to a mediocre Indiana team is less excusable for a team of this caliber. What is also concerning is that Iowa lost in 2 different ways. They shot 44% from the field but gave up 89 to OSU. In the Indiana game, they held IU to only 67 points but only managed 65 of their own points. Iowa drops all the way to 6th place in the Big 10 standings, which would keep then out of a double bye in the Big 10 tournament unless they can claw their way back to the top 4 in the conference. Iowa gets Rutgers at home followed by a trip to Michigan State. I like the Hawkeyes to bounce back and win both games.
#5. Wisconsin (14-6, 8-5) (E)
The Badgers got a nice revenge taking down Penn State at home, but then they went to Champaign and fell flat on their face losing by 15 to the Illini. The more troubling part about the Illinois game was that the score was never that close. The biggest culprit in the loss was Wisconsin shooting a dismal 16% from long range. The other biggest culprit was the rebound margin. Illinois finished with a +27 rebound advantage! So not only was Wisconsin missing all their shots outside, but Wisconsin was not getting another opportunity to score because Illinois dominated the glass. The Badgers are on thin ice for holding onto the last double bye position. They have two games this week: first a tune up game vs Nebraska that should be an eastbound win Wisconsin, then the Badgers host Michigan and look to get revenge from their embarrassing 23 point loss to the Wolverines a month ago. I think Wisconsin has a good shot to win, if it doesn’t get postponed.
#6. Purdue (13-7, 8-5) (E)
Purdue finally climbed back into the top 25 for the first time this season, then they immediately went and loss to Maryland on the road. It was a close fought contest the entire game, but Maryland put on one of their best shooting performances of the season in the 2nd half to pull the upset. Against Northwestern, Purdue led wire to wire and defeated the Wildcats in Mackey to retain their top 25 ranking. The most impressive stat in this game was Purdue converting 23 out of 24 free throws (96%)! Purdue has only 1 game this week and it’s on the road in the Barn against Minnesota. The Gophers are 12-1 at home so I think Purdue will drop this game.
#7. Rutgers (11-6,7-6) (+1)
Rutgers won their only game last week vs Minnesota, bringing their win streak to 4. The Scarlet Knights shot an impressive 53% from the floor led by 16 points from Geo Baker. They are now pulling themselves closer and closer back into the lock category to make their first NCAA tournament since 1991. The Scarlet Knights are now back in the top 25 and are looking to stay there. This week Rutgers takes on Iowa in Iowa city followed by a return to RAC to battle Northwestern. I think the Scarlet Knights will lose to Iowa, but then defeat Northwestern.
#8. Minnesota (11-7,4-7) (-1)
Last week Minnesota lost its only game at Rutgers 76-72. Minnesota came very close to picking up a much needed road win. They kept it close with the knights all game but couldn’t pull it out at the end. This brings their road record to 0-6. I am really worried about their resume if they stumble at all at home and don’t win more than 2 road games in order to be safe to make the big dance. Busy week this week for the Gophers with three games starting home be Nebraska and Purdue, then head out to Maryland on Sunday. I think the Gophers will hold serve at home vs Nebraska and Purdue, but will lose on the road to Maryland. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose to Purdue or beat Maryland either.
#9. Indiana (10-8, 5-6) (+1)
Excellent week for IU. Even though they only went 1-1, they took # 12 Illinois to overtime and they kept it close the entire game. Then the Hoosiers completed the season sweep of #8 Iowa with a last second buzzer beater by Armaan Franklin. Those two wins over the Hawkeyes are excellent resume building wins but that is about the extent of their tournament resume for now. They will need at least a couple more quality wins to feel safer. This week, IU faces Northwestern at home, then travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. I bet the Hoosiers beat Northwestern then lose to OSU.
#10. Penn State (7-8, 4-7) (+2)
Last week, Penn State lost to Wisconsin in a revenge game, but then picked up an important victory over Maryland for jockeying order of the Big 10 to get invited to the Big Dance. Penn State is going to have to squeeze in quite a bit in the final 3 weeks and they are gonna need to keep picking up some wins in order to make March Madness. Especially with the strength of the Big 10, the committee will forgive a losing conference record but they will not forgive a lousy overall record combined with a lousy conference record. They need to go bare minimum 4-3 in their final 7 games, cannot lose to Nebraska, and pick up 3 more wins preferably one more on the road, might be enough to sneak the Nittany Lions into the tournament. This week Penn State takes on MSU then Nebraska. This would be a great opportunity to win both games, but Penn State must at least split these games.
#11. Maryland (10-9, 4-8) (E)
Maryland finally got a home conference win, and over a ranked opponent at that as the Terps snuck out a 1 point win over Purdue. Then the Terps fall flat on their face and lose to Penn State in Happy Valley. The biggest culprit in that game was a 3-17 3 point shooting performance by the Terps. The Terps are now 1 game over 500 and 4-8 in Big 10 play. Right now, Maryland is outside looking in on the tournament, but after a first game against Ohio State, the schedule is relatively light for the Terps and they can use it plus their very high quality road wins to back door themselves into the tournament. This week Maryland takes on Ohio State and Minnesota at home. I bet the Terps will lose to the Buckeyes then beat the Gophers.
#12. Michigan State (9-7, 3-7) (-3)
The Spartans split their two games last week as they fell to Iowa on the road, but then rebounded with a 10 point victory over Nebraska. MSU hung tight with Iowa on the road, leading for much of it but they could never regain the lead in the last 10 minutes to pull the upset. Record wise, Michigan State is not looking good for a March Madness bid, but 5 of their 8 games left are against ranked opponents, so if they can win at least 2 or 3 of these ranked games, I think MSU can sneak back into the tournament. This week Sparty takes on Penn State, before a quick rematch vs Iowa. I bet the Spartans beat Penn State, then I actually think MSU has a good chance to upset the Hawkeyes.
#13. Northwestern (6-10, 3-9) (E)
Northwestern lost again in their only game last week bringing their losing streak to double digits 🙁 Poor Northwestern. Even though the Wildcats lost the game to Purdue and never led at any point, they kept the game within striking distance the whole time and even fought so hard at the end they were making Purdue fans (myself included) nervous. Hopefully next season will go more like the start of this year than the end, but I think this season is over for the Wildcats whose only opportunity now is to play spoiler for other teams still in contention. This week NW gets Indiana at home, then at Rutgers. I most likely see the Wildcats losing both of these games.
#14. Nebraska (4-9, 0-6) (E)
Very happy that Nebraska was able to get back to basketball after 5 of their last 6 games were postponed due to COVID. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the return to basketball also means the return to losing also; last week that loss came in the form of a 10 point loss to Michigan State. I bet Nebraska will win a game or maybe 2, but I would not be surprised at all if the Huskers failed to win a single conference game.